Arrested in class, teen-ager files pair of complaints

Excessive force was used, says Glenelg High student

January 23, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Formal complaints have been filed against the Howard County public school system and Police Department after a Glenelg High School sophomore said excessive force was used when he was arrested by a school resource officer for refusing to change seats in class, his lawyer said yesterday.

At a news conference in front of police headquarters in Ellicott City, attorney Hassan M. Ahmad said his client is pursuing administrative remedies. But the student, who is Middle Eastern and Muslim, and his family have not ruled out legal action or the possibility that the arrest by Officer Kelly Smith was racially motivated.

"We're trying to exhaust any other remedies before it comes to that," Ahmad said.

The Police Department was "surprised" when it received the complaint this week, said spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn, because Chief Wayne Livesay met with the family and its attorneys last month.

"It was the chief's understanding following the meeting that they did not have a complaint about Officer Smith's actions," she said.

The investigation is continuing, but "up until this point we have found no evidence of wrongdoing," she said. "We have every indication that Smith acted appropriately."

School system spokeswoman Patti Caplan said she had no comment yesterday. In previous statements, however, school officials said that the student had been insubordinate.

On Dec. 10, Marvan Ebrahimzadeh, 15, refused a teacher's instruction to move to another seat, Ahmad said. According to an affidavit submitted by Marvan's parents as part of the complaint, which Ahmad said was filed Jan. 8, the teacher then called Assistant Principal Robert Connor, who told him to change seats or go to the office. Marvan initially went with Connor, but on the way changed his mind and returned to his classroom, sitting in the new seat.

Connor did not return calls for comment yesterday.

The affidavit said Connor returned to the classroom with Smith, a police officer assigned to Glenelg, and a man Marvan identified as the school parking permit inspector and gave him a choice: Go to the office or go with Smith.

Marvan collected his backpack and agreed to go with Connor, but he asked what would happen if he went with Smith, the affidavit said.

Smith and the inspector then restrained the boy, according to the affidavit. Smith put Marvan in a headlock and lifted him up before swinging him to the ground, knocking over a desk in the process, Ahmad said.

He was handcuffed and taken to the police station, where he was charged. Ahmad said Smith also made several threats to Marvan and to his parents when they arrived to pick him up.

Marvan sustained bruises on his head, body and wrists, said his mother, Jaleh. Ahmad said that Marvan had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and depression and is receiving therapy, including drugs. Since the arrest, her son has been "very jittery, depressed and tense," Jaleh Ebrahimzadeh said.

He missed a week of school after his arrest, but the school resource officer has not returned, his mother said.

"I wouldn't let him return to school with him there," she said.

Smith was permanently reassigned to another school during the winter break after he and police commanders determined that would be the best solution, Llewellyn said.

"That's excellent," said Attorney Anu B. Kemet, part of the legal team representing Marvan. But that doesn't resolve the problem, he said.

"Should officers be going around arresting children in their classrooms in school for failing to comply with a seating chart in a timely manner?" he asked.

"The main goal is to not have this happen again to anyone else's child," Kemet said. "There has to be some prophylactic measure ... to discourage, dissuade future action of this magnitude. ... They just shuffled their personnel around."

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